The island of Hawai'i comprises over half of the area of the state of Hawaii in the United States of America. To avoid confusion with the state, it is almost universally called the Big Island. It is home to the most active volcano in the world, located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, as well as the largest mountain in the world in volume (Mauna Loa) and the tallest mountain in the world as measured from its base on the sea floor to its peak (Mauna Kea).
- East Hawaii
- West Hawaii
- Kohala - the North Part of the Island.
- Ka'u - the South part of the Island.
- Hilo -- Located on the east coast along Hilo Bay. Hilo is the capital for Hawaii County and the Big Island's largest city with a population of about 50,000. It is the second largest city in Hawaii, after the state capital, Honolulu and home to the county government offices, University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the Imiloa astronomy center.
- Kona -- A district on the west coast. Kailua-Kona is the main town.
- Hamakua - Honokaa
- Kohala - Waimea, Waikoloa, Hawi
- Puna - Pahoa, Keaau
- Waikoloa - Resort area of South Kohala district.
- Waimea - Ranch town in the north part of the Island. Home to the Parker Ranch.
- Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
- Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
- Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site
There are two major airports if you are flying into the Big Island, Kona International Airport  and Hilo International Airport . There are a few direct flights from the mainland, mostly from California and Seattle, but it is more common to arrive via Honolulu or Kahului. You should try to get a flight direct from the mainland to Kona to save time waiting (and walking) around the Honolulu airport. There are no direct flights to Hilo from the mainland.
If you can't find a direct flight, consider that Kona's airport is by far busier and requires a lot of time to pass all checkpoints. Hilo's airport has fewer flights, is smaller, so the time between rental drop-off and boarding is much shorter.
Inter-island "hoppers" arrive from all the other islands several times a day. Local flights are available through three main airlines, Hawaiian , Island Air  and go!  to the two major airports. These airlines provide frequent service between the islands, largely connecting through Honolulu, although there are some direct flights from Kona and Hilo to Kahului Maui. Daily round-trip service is also available between Hilo and Kona. Pacific Wings,  provides fun flights in small prop planes between Hilo, Kona and Kamuela. Keep in mind that an inter-island flight could use up almost an entire day, due to the fact that you must pack, check out of hotel, get to the airport, return rental car, go through all the airport procedures, fly, wait for luggage, get rental car, check in, unpack. It's tempting to try and see as many of the islands as you can on one trip, but it's best to spend no less than three nights on an island. In the case of the Big Island, think of the two sides of the island as separate. It takes about 2 hours 15 minutes to drive from Kailua-Kona to Hilo, and about six hours to circle the island.
Although several cruise ship lines operate in Hawaii, there is currently no dedicated inter-island boat service. Hawaii Superferry, a private company supported by the Hawaii state government, which current runs high-capacity catamaran ferry services between O‘ahu and Maui, plans to open a O‘ahu - Big Island service by 2009.
Renting a car is a good way to see the island, however, renting a 4WD is best. Many of the Big Island's finest sights are only accessable by 4WD.
Getting around by local bus, bikes, or on foot work well if you're staying in one area. Many budget travelers are unpleasantly surprised by the extremely limited public transport on the Big Island. The county's Hele-On bus is free, but the schedules are mainly intended for commuting . There are some bus companies offering excursions from Hilo to destinations like Volcano, but they require reservations.
If you're thinking about renting a Jeep, Alamo doesn't disable the four wheel drive option in their Jeeps as some other rental agencies do. However, keep in mind that you are violating the rental contract by driving on "unpaved roads" (let alone some of the four wheel drive only roads). As long as you are careful and sensible about it though, you'll be fine. Just keep in mind that you are "on your own" if you get in trouble while violating the rental agreement. If you're going to violate the rental contract by driving on unpaved roads, you have less of a chance of getting stuck if you have the ability to shift to four wheel drive.
Harper Rentals  has four wheel drive vehicles that are allowed by contract to drive on unpaved roads. You will pay more for that right.
- Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to both the world's largest volcano, Mauna Loa (13,677 feet high), and the world's most active, Kilauea (continuously erupting since 1983). Drive around Crater Rim drive to see the massive two mile diameter Kilauea crater and steam vents, and down the Chain of Craters road to see the fresh lava flow covering the highway and the active lava flowing into the ocean. Also tour the Thurston lava tube. Be advised that the total time for the trip from the Kona side of the island to the Volcano and back will take at least nine hours. You should leave enough time to exit the park before sunset to avoid driving after dark. In the park, be careful not to hit any nenes, the endangered Hawaiian goose on the roads.
- Mauna Kea, 28 miles (45.1 km) W of Hilo on Hawaii 20, then N on the access road to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, +1 808-961-2180, . OCIA, named in memory of U.S. astronaut Ellison Onizuka, open daily 9AM-10PM. Mauna Kea (13,796 feet), the largest mountain in the world (measured from its base) is a dormant volcano which has become an international center for astronomy. Several astronomical observatories are located on its summit. The austere Mars-like landscape dotted with technological marvels is worth a look; if it is clear you might also get a look out to Maui. The elevation is high, and there are few tourist support facilities so hiking and exploring are discouraged. Also keep an eye out for the nene.
- Four wheel drive vehicles are strongly recommended above the OCIA. Several tour companies offer tours to the summit and observatories of Mauna Kea for a fee. Observatory facilities are normally closed to the public. Most rental car companies prohibit travel on Hawaii Route 200 (Saddle Road). No admission charge.
- Kula Kai Caverns
- Akaka Falls A waterfall eleven miles north of Hilo boasts a tremendous sight as the water tumbles 440 feet to its base. The trip from the parking lot around to see Akaka and the smaller Kahuna Falls is about 20 minutes and is suitable for children and anyone who can navigate steps. Akaka is the most spectacular of several waterfalls along the northeast coast of the island on the highway from Wiameia to Hilo.
- Coffee Farms In the highlands above Kona the coffee plants come right down to the road's edge.
- Black sand beaches formed by volcanic sand. There are currently two well-known and many less known black sand beaches. The former are Kehena Beach in the Puna district, and Punalu`u Beach in Ka`u district.
- Green sand beach at South Point. There is a parking lot and a shack which has been designated as a "visitor's center." If you park in this lot, there is a chance that someone will emerge with a clipboard and ask you to pay for parking. Several guide books make the point that this is public land and that you are allowed to park without paying any fee. While this may be true, some travelers have been harassed or even threatened for asserting their rights to park. A more promising alternative is to park at the boat launch, adding half a mile to your hike. Keep in mind that with the drive from the highway and the one hour hike from the parking lot to the beach, it is a three hour round trip minimum from the highway.
- Dolphin and whale watching - seasonal.
- Dolphin Quest Hawaii - The Hilton Resort Waikoloa  offers the opportunity to swim with their group of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in their lagoon, with the dolphins dancing and jumping as the group communicates with them through hand signs. Visitors are not allowed to hold on to their fins while they swim, though. Be prepared to spend between $150 and $200 per adult for a memorable thirty minute experience.
- Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park Puuhonua o Honaunau is a great place to visit if you're interested in learning about Hawaiian heritage. Breakers of kapu (taboos) who could make it to this place and performed a series of rituals were granted sanctuary. Tours, traditional craft demos, simulations of the Hukilau (fishing with ti leaf ropes) and other activities can be seen here (schedules vary). Honu (turtles) can frequently be observed swimming in the royal fishpond. May be crowded with other tourists.
- Waipi`o Valley, a large, verdant valley in the North of the islands. This valley was inhabited for a millennium, until a tsunami washed away all dwellings. Left for good by the native population, it then became the green paradise of counterculture types. Van and horseback trips are available from the scenic crest down to the gorgeous valley floor.
- Hawaiʻi Tropical Botanical Garden off Route 19 in Pāpa'ikou.
- Pua Mau Place Arboretum and Botanical Garden an early-stage, nonprofit facility in Kawaihae, on the dry slopes of the Kohala Mountain Range.
- Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens at Kona Outdoor Circle Educational Center.
- University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Botanical Gardens in Hilo.
- World Botanical Gardens, commercial gardens in Umauma, north of Hilo.
- Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo.
The Big Island has the usual array of sub-tropical island activities. While the Kona side has a number of white sand beaches, the coastline on the Hilo side tends to be rocky. This is due to the relative age of the coastline.
Due to its altitude, latitude, and the lack of interference from city lights, Mauna Kea provides among the best sites on earth for telescopes. You may notice the strange orange and pink hues put out by street lights on the Big Island. They are sodium lights used to ensure that the views from Mauna Kea are unpolluted.
Stop at the Visitor Information Station of the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy. They set up several telescopes nightly for the public to enjoy. Volunteers provide programs daily at 6 pm, and will answer any questions you have as you look at the unbelievable number of visible stars. Remember to bring your jacket, as the elevation is over 9200 feet at the Visitor Center.
The beaches of the Big Island, especially on the Kona side, have been consistently voted amongst the best beaches in the world. Some (like Mauna Kea Beach) front hotel resorts, while others (like Makalawena) remained unencumbered by modern tourism. Hapuna Beach is reputed to be one of the best, consistent with the picture many outsiders have in their head of what a Hawaiian beach should be.
The island has one of the few green sand beaches in the world (see above), and several black sand beaches.
The Big Island has some fantastic snorkeling. Go to Kona Boys to get your gear and some guidance on the best places to jump in. The Kona side has most of the best snorkeling, but Puna also has some excellent sites. Go in the morning on the Kona side, and in the afternoon in Puna, for clear and calm conditions.
- Two Step at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (Place of Refuge). Great for beginners and experts alike. Teeming with fish and turtles.
- Ho'okena Beach Park south of Honaunau is not as spectacular, but getting in and out of the water is incredibly easy: just walk. The enter at the left side of the beach for the best snorkeling. Go during the week, if you can (save the weekends for the locals).
- Kapoho Tide Pools on the southern Puna coast are not to be missed. This is some of the calmest snorkeling you will ever see, and the fish will come right up to you. The pools are spring-fed, and some are volcanically heated. There are no dive shops anywhere near here, so bring your gear with you (although a local may take pity on you and loan you theirs). Again, go during the week if you can. Marine scientists frequent this spot, and are usually happy to share their knowledge to make your visit to the tide pools more fulfilling.
- Captain Cook, Kealakekua Bay Considered to be the best snorkeling on the Big Island. Rent a kayak from Dexter across from Captain Cook's monument.
Hilo Surfboard Company: Is the Big Island's most ‘authentic’ surf shop. People travel all the way form Kona to check out boards as they REALLY DO have the largest selection of boards. And unless you want a Hilo Surfboard Company T Shirt or shirts from a couple ‘locals. Like Moku Nui or KRU, better go to the mall. This is a real core surf shop! Owner Scott Murray will be stoked to see you and talk story! 84 Ponahawai St. Hilo. 808.934.0925
Hiking and camping
There are also hiking and camping tours too. Very convenient since humping camping equipment on a plane is difficult.
- Waipi’o Valley - Awe-inspiring volcanic valleys and gorges filled with rain forest vegetation.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- Many long and scenic hiking trails through the tropical forests and along the craters.
The Big Island has a tour company for every possible tourist endeavor. If you don't see it covered here, search for it. Chances are there will be a tour guide for what you want to do.
Native Guide Hawaii Family friendly, educational, private tours on the Big Island of Hawaii. Tour Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the puna coast, and the slopes of Mauna Loa with Hilo native, Warren Costa Phone: (808) 982 - 7575
- Helicopter tours over the volcano
- Mule/Horseback tours
- Snorkeling. A lot of fish and coral ogling can be done without getting a license, only a snorkel and some flippers are required. There are several good areas, like Cooke's cove and some of the more secluded beaches between Waikaloa and Kawaihi.
- SCUBA Diving Kona has some great diving opportunities during the daytime, but the real thing to see here is the Manta Rays. All the dive operators in town do a night dive to see the giant mantas, and this is the best and most reliable place in the world to see them. The manta rays of Kona can be up to 16 feet wide and weigh almost 2000 lbs! On any given night there are 1-20 rays feeding at the dive site, and by bringing lights in the water, plankton (their food) is attracted to feed them. Divers sit in sand on the bottom about 30 feet deep and watch these huge but harmless fishes swim inches from their faces. A must do! Though it's at night, there is so much light in the water and it's so shallow that this is an easy dive for novice divers, as well as a very rewarding dive for even the most seasoned divers. Snorkelers can also get a great up close view of the mantas at the same time. All you have to do is float on the water and hold a light, it's very easy.
Companies to go with to see the mantas: Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii or Big Island Divers
- Fishing charters are available out of any of the port towns.
- Biking. The Big Island hosts the Iron Man competition every year. So there is a lot of touring style cycling. Most of that is done on Highway 19 between Kona and Kawaihi. But there are also big trucks on that road, so be careful. Mountain biking is good around Waipi'o valley and in the Volcano park. But it can be technical. Mana road is also good for off-road cycling, but it is very long (65-70 miles). You will need support or legs of iron to do it in a day.
Dance, culture, and traditional crafts classes are available for long or short term students. Many resorts offer 1-3 day classes in hula or lei making.
Hawaii's unemployment rates are among the lowest in the nation, and thus it is impressive that the Big Island boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. While tourism, military, and agriculture have typically been the largest employers, recent new job growth has resulted primarily from a residential building boom. The astronomical observatories are another important group of employers.
- CanoeHouse, 68-1400 Mauna Lani Drive, ☎ (800) 367-2323, . The CanoeHouse, located on the Kohala Coast, is an award-winning restaurant at Mauna Lani Resort. Its oceanfront setting and nightly entertainment compliment the Pacific Rim inspired menu.
- Be aware that there is very little nightlife in Kona, as nearly all the restaurants empty out by nine.
- The King Kameamea luau in Kona, the only luau on the beach on the Big Island--careful, not open on Saturdays!
- Hawaiian chocolate macadamia nut cookies
- poke (salad of raw fish)
- Ka'u oranges (ugly, but delicious)
- Señor Billy's Cantina in Captain Cook. Get an order of the incredible carnitas to go, and watch the sunset at the beach just past Pu'uhonua O Honaunau.
- The Coffee Shack in Captain Cook. Get an egg sandwich on Luau bread, and sit on the patio with a big mug of their coffee. Pet the house cat (be gentle, she's getting on in years).
- Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi. The atmosphere and food are great. Located in an old hotel building from the early 20th century. The cuisine combines a mix different cultures to create a unique blend of flavors and items. Live Hawaiian music on weekends and a gallery of fine island art.
- Tex Drive-In Hwy 19 in Honokaa. A great little place full of local flavor. Famous for its malasadas, or Portuguese Doughnuts and other family favorites it now also houses a gift shop and plenty of outdoor tables.
- Luke's Place and the Tiki Lounge, 55-514 Hawi Road(On the other side of the street from the post office), ☎ 889-1155, . 11:30AM to Midnight. Luke's Place is a long standing establishment in North Kohala. Serving Continental Food and Local Specials. There is Live Music every night and Dancing on the weekends. Luke's Place is the only place in town open after 10PM.6 - 15 $ average meal.
- Kona coffee
- Kona Brewing Company offers great microbrews and pizza, it is located within downtown Kona.
- Luke's Place and the Tiki Lounge, 55-514 Hawi Road(On the other side of the road from the post office), ☎ 889-1155, . 11:30AM to Midnight. Luke's Place is a long standing establishment in North Kohala. Serving Continental Food and Local Specials. There is Live Music every night and Dancing on the weekends. Luke's Place is the only place in town open after 10PM.6 - 15 $ Average Meals.
The Big Island is full of your typical style resorts, but there are great Bed and Breakfast type places, vacation rental homes and small operator hotels too. Before making reservations it's best to review a map of the island and plan ahead. Think about the activities and sightseeing you'll want to do.
- Bamboo Orchid Cottage, 11-3903 Tenth Street(Off Pearl at 26 Mile Marker), ☎ 808-985-8920, . checkin: 4-6 PM; checkout: 11 AM. An upscale bed and breakfast 2 miles from the park entrance, Bamboo Orchid Cottage offers a choice of 4 rooms, all with privare baths, in the middle of the rainforest. The beautiful grounds feature a hot tub, BBQ area, and covered seating with fire pit. Very relaxing!$139 and Up.
- Guest Cottages at Volcano Tree House, 11-3860 Eleventh St(Off Pearl at 26 Mile Marker), ☎ 808-985-9592, . checkin: 4-6 PM; checkout: 11 AM. Sleep among the Ohias in this amazing bed and breakfast in a rustic setting. This unique showpiece was built on a lovingly hand-cleared lot and features Ohias growing though the 700+ SF deck and BBQ area and giant tree ferns you can reach out and touch. Don't miss this unforgetable experience!$149 and Up.
- Kohala Village Inn, 55-514 Hawi Rd, Hawi(On the other side of the street from the post office), ☎ 808-889-0404, . checkin: 1PM; checkout: 11AM. The Kohala Village Inn is a cozy 1950's style hotel in the middle of Hawi Town. It features beautiful gardens, affordable rates, and is located in the heart of community. There are many activities in the surrounding area. 65 $ to 130 $.
- Margo's Corner Naalehu, near South Point, Ka'u (call or email for directions), 808-929-9614(email@example.com).A colorful, off the beaten track bed and breakfast, kept by Margo a long time resident of Ka'u. Two choices for accommodation:indoors or campsites nestled in Margo's organic gardens. All guests are served breakfast, guests who stay for a week or longer are also served evening 'family style' meals (vegetarian/vegan by request) On site natural food store and wireless internet. camping $30 per person,$90-130 for cottage and adobe suite. Daily entertainment and nap lessons by the 5 resident cats (at no charge!). No smoking please.
- My Island Inn, . A lovely B&B housed in a historic plantation house only a few miles from Volcano National Park. The hosts are long-time natives of the Hawaii Islands and are full of fantastic advice on touring the islands, as well as delightful stories of their own adventures here. The grounds are a beautifully kept profusion of flowers and fruit trees, and many of the fruits make their way into the plentiful (really plentiful!) and delicious breakfasts.
- Abbey Vacation Rentals, . The Finest Vacation Rentals in Kona, Waikoloa Beach, Mauna Lani Resort, and Mauna Kea Resort.
- BwanaBob's Hawaii Cottages, ☎ 888-950-7560(firstname.lastname@example.org), . Luxury cottage for two - very private secluded, tropical, ocean views$155 to $185.
- Outrigger Kanaloa at Kona, . Perched atop an outcropping of lava rock overlooking Keauhou Bay.
- Outrigger Royal Sea Cliff, . Oceanfront condominiums on the Kona Coast.
- Outrigger Fairway Villas, . On the Kohala Coast.
- Dragonfly Ranch, . An "eco-spa treehouse", Pleasures that include communing with friendly wild dolphins, snorkeling, diving, labyrinth, yoga space, organic garden, lomilomi massage, birding, hammock, flower essences, far infra red sauna, wireless high speed internet, hosting honeymoons, families, workshops and individuals.
- Paniolo Greens, . 162 spacious villas with fully equipped kitchens and private lanais. Spectacular Big Island resort location minutes away from Hapuna Beach Park and the white sand beaches of the Kohala Coast. 68-1745 Waikoloa Rd.
- Waipio Wayside Inn, . The historical Waipio Wayside Inn Bed and Breakfast is an old sugar plantation home in Honokaa and is located at the Hamakua coast line close to the Volcanoes National Park. A beautiful location for your Hawaii wedding.
- Chalet Kilauea, 19-4178 Wright Road, Volcano Village, ☎ 800-937-7786(ILAKilauea@ila-chateau.com, fax: 808-967-8660), . The charming & luxurious Chalet Kilauea is only a mile from Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii & reknown for its elegance, service, style & warm welcome.From $150.
- Kolea, Mauna Lani & Mauna Kea Luxury Villa Rentals, Phone: (866) 456-4252, . Featuring the Kohala Coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Luxury Ocean Front, Ocean View and Golf View Villa Rentals.
- Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Kohala Coast, Phone: (808) 882-7222, . Located in the bluffs above Hapuna Beach, this luxury resort features a spa and salon, fitness facilities, extensive wedding and meeting space, an 18-hole golf course, and restaurants serving Hawaiian and Japanese cuisines.
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Kohala Coast, Phone: (808) 882-7222, . Located on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, this luxury resort offers an extensive list of services and activities including meeting and wedding venues, fine dining options, a championship golf course, and tennis courts.
- Mauna Kea Resort Rentals, 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Kohala Coast, Phone: (808) 880-3490, . A collection of vacation rental homes, luxury villas, and condos on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. Guests of the vacation rentals also receive access to all the amenities of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
- Mauna Lani Resort, 68-1400 Mauna Lani Drive, Tel (800)367-2323  This Big Island beach front resort offers luxury suites, vacation packages, nightly entertainment, spa services, championship golf and more.
- Hilton Waikoloa Resort on the Kohala Coast. This gi-mongous resort is the Disneyland of Big Island. There is a monorail as well as a ferry boat to take you between buildings. The pool is like an amusement park, and you can actually swim with the resident dolphins. There is a nearby mall for somewhat less expensive dining options, but the restaurants on site are pretty swanky and not cheap.
- Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort, . Oceanfront resort located along the Kona Coast. Full service spa, swimming pool, fitness center, six tennis courts and meeting facilities.
- Kona Oceanfront Rentals, . Beautiful oceanfront home and condos in gated communities the Kona Coast in Kauila-Kona.
- Note that even solidified lava flows can still be very dangerous, as there are hidden flows of molten lava with only an overlying thin crust of rock in many places between Pu'u O'o and the shoreline. And of course there's the threat of methane explosions and lava bench collapses, so do not walk to the edge of the lava bench unless the rangers say it is safe to do so.
The usual disclaimers about the more active things to do apply. If you have a tour guide, they often have insurance premiums to be beholden to and as such make them more aware of safety issues. But otherwise the island is mostly remote and help can be far away. Know your physical limits.
This page was last edited at 23:57, on 4 March 2009 by Greg Gillick. Based on work by David, John A and Justin Britt, Wikitravel user(s) Lapaki, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.